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Game: CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Ubisoft
Year: 2006
Reviewed: 2008
Platform: PC
Genre: Adventure
Reviewer: ValkyrDeath

Despite the number 3 in the title, 3 Dimensions of Murder is actually the fourth CSI game. It is the third set with the original Las Vegas cast, however. Gone are the Miami cast and their awkward attempts at acting, and back is Jim Brass at his desk yet again. Hooray! What the title probably does refer to is the fact that the game’s scenes are now rendered in full 3D. This changes the gameplay in absolutely no way at all. It barely even changes the appearance, since you still can’t wander around the scenes freely, instead being stuck to one spot and rotating around. It does mean that when you zoom into a particular part of the location, such as a desk, you can move along it or rotate a few degrees around it, but that’s about it. Added to this is the fact that the graphics are well below the standards of the time it was released, and it’s a change that’s been pretty much worthless.

CSI 3 Dimensions of Murder Jim Brass Yet Again!
How about this for a radical change to the game: Jim Brass might still be sat at his desk, but… he’s wearing a different jacket and tie!

It’s not only in the movement that the game hasn’t changed. All elements of gameplay are exactly the same too. Back in the second game, Dark Motives, it seemed the games were going to be getting gradually better. However, any changes unfortunately stopped there. You scan the crime scenes by clicking on every bit of evidence as usual, and then drag everything you’ve collected onto the appropriate machines in the lab. Matching fingerprints and DNA is the same simple process as it was before and the photo analysis and audio analysis which could have potential to be interesting is still overly simplified to the point where you just drag the items onto the computer and that’s pretty much it.

But at least I can say that the cases are much more interesting this time. Unfortunately, just because I can say it doesn’t make it true. It’s a lie. It seems the cases in Dark Motives were about the best we were going to get, and nothing here really goes beyond the standard murder plot. There is one case that has a reasonably interesting twist in it, far fetched as it is, but most of the rest of the game is rather forgettable. There are five cases as usual, and the last case again involves characters and locations from the earlier ones, but the plot doesn’t really relate to the earlier cases at all, the characters just being used to make it seem like there’s some sort of overall conclusion. One of the cases does involve the murder of a boss at a computer game company though, involving a bitter ex-employee who didn’t like the fact that his game based on two comic book characters was cancelled in order for the company to concentrate on violent games. It seems the people making this game were so unhappy with the cancellation of Lucasarts Sam and Max sequel they wrote an entire CSI case around it.

CSI 3 Dimensions of Murder Gallery Corpse
I can never understand this modern art.

Actual puzzles are still pretty much absent, apart from one ridiculously awful attempt at one. In one case, you find a cracked vase, from which you have to remove the broken pieces so you can get at the object inside. When it seems you have removed all the pieces and can clearly see what is inside, you inexplicably still can’t get it. It turns out that it’s because there’s a practically microscopic fragment still left in one corner that must be removed before you can take the item out from the vase. Because a tiny, barely visible piece like that would stop you from reaching in and picking up an item in full view of course. It’s one of the most poorly designed puzzles I’ve come across in a long time, and the fact that it’s practically the only puzzle in the game other than the occasional basic jigsaw-style piecing together of a torn document makes it stand out even more. At other times there’s slight annoyances scattered around, such as the fact that you can’t seem to take any fingerprints at all from perhaps the most obvious place around, the computer keyboard. Oh, and I really didn’t need to see a close up video clip of a rat crawling out of the mouth of a corpse on first investigating one of the crimes, especially as it had no actual purpose within the game other than to be repulsive.

As I mentioned earlier, I thought after Dark Motives that the games had genuine potential to become really good. Maybe I was wrong, or maybe the makers just aren’t really trying, but the games certainly haven’t shown any signs of reaching that potential, having not even remotely changed since. It’s better than the CSI Miami game, by sheer power of not being based around CSI Miami, but it’s still not good enough to suggest that the games are now anything other than a lazy cash-in of a popular TV show.

Save System Review: Autosaves as you go along, always resumes from where you left off, no problems.
Graphics: The game was released in 2006, and the graphics are extremely dated and very low resolution for the time. Still 800X600, even now it’s in 3D? There’s just no excuse anymore.
Sound: Voice acting is varied, some good some bad. Some of the cast from the TV show play their respective roles, but some don’t, and the sound recording quality is very amateurish at times.
Bugs: None that I found.
Gameplay: The same basic formula of clicking and choosing the appropriate tool to collect the evidence at the scene, then just dragging it to the correct machine in the lab, and questioning suspects. It just hasn’t moved on.
Storyline: The plots aren’t bad, but most of them aren’t especially interesting either. They do at least make sense though, and are above the average mystery game storyline.

Arbitrary Final Score: 2 stars

Does the third dimension improve anything or is the game still as one-dimensional as before? State your opinion here!